Stewart sparks Manly's first win - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

Stewart sparks Manly's first win

By Todd Balym 12/04/2009 06:21:12 PM Comments (0)

Tryscoring "freak" Brett Stewart returned from NRL exile to put defending premiers Manly back on a track with a spectacular hat-trick of tries at his beloved Brookvale Oval on Sunday.

Stewart was the star of the show as the Sea Eagles chalked up their first win of the season with a 23-10 defeat of the Wests Tigers.

It was the Test star's first game of the season after he was banned by the NRL for four weeks for alcohol-related misbehaviour at the club's infamous season launch on March 6.

His first appearance also came just five days after he pleaded not guilty in Manly local court to a charge of sexual assault against a 17-year-old girl.

He hasn't spoken publicly since the incident more than a month ago but let his football do all the talking on Sunday.

Proving he is the king of "Brett-vale" Oval, Stewart's hat-trick took him to 51 tries in 53 games at the ground.

The 24-year-old received a standing ovation by the crowd of 17,942 fans who chanted his name after his second try and waited after the final siren as the Test star led a lap of honour and high-fived fans along the fence.

Manly captain Matt Orford did his best to put the focus of the win on the entire squad, but couldn't hide his relief at having his best attacking weapon back alongside him.

"I love having Brett back, we read each other's game so well," said Orford.

"He is a freak of the game and a big part of what we do."

Coach Des Hasler said Stewart "did what he had to" in his return.

"I thought he acquitted himself pretty well given the fact he has been out for four weeks," said Hasler.

"He is a quality player and one of the best fullbacks running around. He adds quality to any side he plays football for."

The Test and NSW fullback soared high over childhood friend and opposing fullback Rhys Hanbury to catch an Orford bomb in the 24th minute for his first try and raised his arms in triumph.

"He would have been happy to score it," said Hanbury.

"I'm happy for him, (but) I would rather have the win."

Three minutes later Stewart sliced through some feeble defence and sprinted 30m to score his second and give Manly a 16-4 lead.

The dynamic fullback's performance was just the injection Manly needed after the Tigers winger Beau Ryan had scored in just the second minute with the visitors' first use of the football.

Manly eventually hit stride with a try to Glenn Hall in the 19th minute and from there the defending premiers took control to end their run of four consecutive defeats to start 2009.

While the Sea Eagles won the game they still didn't look back to their best.

They failed to score any points while Tigers lock Todd Payten was in the sin bin for a professional foul, and only sealed the win when Stewart scored his third try in the 65th minute running onto man of the match Anthony Watmough's pass.

Stewart clapped towards the crowd, punched the air and smiled for the first time when he completed his hat-trick.

Tigers five-eighth John Morris scored a late try for the visitors before Orford put the result beyond doubt with a 20m field goal in the 74th minute.

Tigers assistant coach Royce Simmons said his side failed to hold the ball long enough to put Manly under pressure.

"We completed 50 per cent or something, who cares what the figures are, they were crap at the end of the day," said Simmons.

"You cannot win games of football when you make as many mistakes as we did today."

Manly's 13-point win ensures they leapfrog Cronulla into 15th place and leave the Sharks sitting last on the competition table.

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